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Alice Walker: Why I'm Sailing to Gaza

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker will join an international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge Israel's blockade of the territory. Here, Walker, best known for her 1983 novel "The Color Purple," explains why she will be taking part.
© Alice Walker

Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: What else would I do? I am in my sixty-seventh year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content.

It seems to me that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one's understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young. How are they to learn, otherwise?

Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?

There is a scene in the movie "Gandhi" that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire. The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.


Radioactive Tritium Leaks Found at 48 US Nuke Sites

© Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
A decoy sits on Bob Scamen's pond in Braidwood, Ill., within view of the Braidwood Nuclear Power Station in Braceville, Ill. Braidwood has leaked more than six million gallons of tritium-laden water in repeated leaks dating back to the 1990s — but not publicly reported until 2005.
You got pipes that have been buried underground for 30 or 40 years, and they've never been inspected, whistleblower says

Braceville, Illinois - Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants.

Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard - sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.

While most leaks have been found within plant boundaries, some have migrated offsite. But none is known to have reached public water supplies.

Comment: Tritium - is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium (sometimes called a triton) contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium (by far the most abundant hydrogen isotope) contains one proton and no neutrons. Naturally occurring tritium is extremely rare on Earth, where trace amounts are formed by the interaction of the atmosphere with cosmic rays. The name of this isotope is formed from the Greek word "tritos" meaning "third."


Health risks

Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen, which allows it to readily bind to hydroxyl radicals, forming tritiated water (HTO), and to carbon atoms. Since tritium is a low energy beta emitter, it is not dangerous externally (its beta particles are unable to penetrate the skin), but it is a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin. HTO has a short biological half life in the human body of seven to 14 days, which both reduces the total effects of single-incident ingestion and precludes long-term bioaccumulation of HTO from the environment.


Ash cloud's return causes flight chaos in Australia

Ash from Chile's Cordón Caulle volcano grounds domestic flights in and out of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

© Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images
A Qantas and a Virgin plane sit on the tarmac at the international airport in Sydney as the Chilean ash cloud grounds flights.
Australia faces air transport chaos after ash from Chile's Cordón Caulle volcano shut the country's busiest airports.

Thousands of travellers were stranded after Qantas cancelled all domestic flights in and out of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra on Tuesday afternoon, until at least Thursday. International flights have also been affected, with all Qantas planes due to land on Wednesday diverted or delayed until Thursday.

Virgin has also cancelled flights out of Sydney and Melbourne until further notice. "The ash plume is at a very low level and we're not comfortable flying at those levels," said Virgin Australia spokeswoman Danielle Keighery.

The ash cloud from the volcano is circling Earth for a second time, after last week delaying about 700 flights across Australia and New Zealand.


Ten worst plane crashes in the world

A Russian Tupolev-134 passenger jet crashed late on Monday night killing forty four people. Here is a list of the ten worst plane crashes in history around the world.

Russian rescuers inspect the wreckage of the Polish government Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft which crashed near Smolensk airport
1. 1977: 583 people died after two Boeing 747s (KLM and Pan Am) collided on a runway in Tenerife in the worst accident in the history of commercial aviation.

2. 1985: 520 people perished after a Japan Air Lines Boeing 747 suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure and slewed into Mount Osutaka. To date, it is the worst single-aircraft disaster in history.

3. 1996: 349 people died after a mid-air collision in India between a Boeing 747 operated by Saudi Arabian Airlines and a Soviet-era Ilyushin-76 plane operated by Air Kazahkstan.


Russian Officials Say 44 Dead in North-Western Plane Crash

A RusAir plane crashed in northwestern Russia in heavy fog overnight, killing 44 people. Officials said some of the eight survivors were in critical condition.


Symbolic or Intentional? Two top atomic energy engineers and at least three senior managers of Russian leading nuclear reactors' construction firm were killed in a fatal plane crash

© Reuters/Nika TV via Reuters TV
People walk at the site of a plane crash about 1 km (0.6 miles) from the runway at the airport outside the northern Russian city of Petrozavodsk in this still image taken from video footage June 21, 2011.
Forty-four people died and a handful of survivors were fighting for their lives after an overnight airliner crash in north-western Russia, the Civil Defence Ministry reported Tuesday.

The Russair charter flight from Moscow crashed about midnight (2000 GMT Monday) as it approached its destination, Petrozavodsk, 400 kilometres north-east of St Petersburg in Russia's Republic of Karelia, which borders Finland.

The Tupolev Tu-134, with 43 passengers and a crew of nine, made a hard landing on a highway about a kilometre from the airport at Petrozavodsk, the capital of Karelia, according to news reports.

A possible failure of communications between the air crew and ground controllers and thick fog could have been contributing factors, airline officials told the Interfax news agency.


US: Inside Nightmare Shop Slaughter


Surveillance photos released yesterday show the suspect enter the store, and leave a mass murderer.
Pharmacy video captures every step of psycho's execution spree

They didn't put up fight -- and he still slaughtered them.

Chilling surveillance video at the tiny Haven Pharmacy in Medford, LI, captured the horrific Father's Day bloodbath that left four dead -- and law-enforcement sources yesterday described how the killer "executed" his innocent victims without making any demands.

"This is one of the most heinous, brutal crimes we have ever encountered," said stunned Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer yesterday.

All four victims "offered no resistance -- and did not appear to provoke the shooter in any way," Dormer said.

Arrow Down

Canada: Concrete Chunk Falls from Gardiner

© Dwight Friesen/CBC
A portion of Lakeshore Ave. West was closed after a 4.5-kilogram chunk of concrete from the Gardiner Expressway crashed to the road below.
A portion of a busy downtown road was closed for about two hours Monday after a large chunk of concrete crashed to the ground.

The 4.5-kilogram chunk from the Gardiner Expressway fell onto a guardrail on Lakeshore Boulevard West just before 1 p.m., scattering debris on the road east of Bathurst Street near Dan Leckie Way.

Police closed two westbound lanes of traffic while crews cleaned up the area. It re-opened before 3 p.m.

There were no reports of injuries.

Toronto Works Committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong said city crews would be sent to the site on Tuesday to determine if there was any structural damage.


Get Ready for More Plastic in Your Wallet; Canada Switching to Polymer Bills

© The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney holds a new $100 bill as he unveils the new polymer bank notes in $50 and $100 denominations at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa on Monday, June 20, 2011.
Get ready to have a little more plastic in your wallet.

Starting in November, new polymer bank notes will start to replace paper-cotton bills that wear and tear more easily.

The first bills to go plastic will be the $100 notes. The $50 notes will follow next March. The rest of the plastic money will be in circulation by the end of 2013.

The polymer bank notes are more durable than paper money. The Bank of Canada expects the new bills to last 2.5 times longer than the paper ones.

They're also harder to fake than paper money. Some of the security features built into the new notes include raised ink, hidden numbers and metallic images in see-through windows.

Wall Street

Airbus' superjumbo jet clips building at air show

© Unknown
The European airplane maker Airbus was left red in the face this weekend, when on on-ground accident forced it to withdraw an A380 superjumbo from the Paris Air Show.

The enormous plane--with a wingspan of 80 yards--scraped a building at the show, clipping its wing. Korean Air flew one of its superjumbo jets to the show to come to Airbus' rescue, The Wall Street Journal reported. The damaged plane sat with its wing covered over the weekend.

The mishap wasn't the only embarrassment for Airbus at the biennial air show. The company also had to pull a military transport carrier A400M from a flight demonstration after problems were found in its gear box, the Journal reports. Airbus officials then brought in another aircraft to do a flyover pass to impress visiting foreign dignitaries who attended the show.

© Reuters
Meanwhile, rival Boeing's distinctive 747-8 superjumbo upstaged Airbus. The company said it had received $5.4 billion in orders for the new aircraft.